New Delhi: Former CBI acting director M. Nageswara Rao has called for a ban on foreign funding of NGOs in India saying “charity, especially that of the foreign variety, comes with a hidden agenda”.
In an article titled ‘The Dangers of Foreign Funding’ written in RSS mouthpiece Organiser, Rao said only “overseas citizens of India” should be allowed to donate to Indian NGOs for the purpose of preservation, study and promotion of ancient Indian texts and traditional Indian knowledge.
“There is no such thing as free lunch. Charity especially that of the foreign variety, comes with stated or hidden agenda. Large amount of funding for the so-called non-profit or non-commercial sector in India is generated as overseas ‘donations’ by various organisations that are affiliated to foreign State and non-State actors,” wrote Rao, who is currently the Director-General of Home Guards, Fire Services and Civil Defence.
“It is heartening to note that the present central government has been very sincere and proactive in enforcing the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act). Yet, it hardly has any impact on the quantum of remittances for the simple reason that the problem is FCRA itself,” the article published on 27 January added.
“Therefore, no amount of tweaking the law can mitigate the danger. Hence, the only way to save the country from this serious menace… is by banning all sorts of foreign ‘donations’, whatever may be their purpose,” Rao wrote.
It is rare for a serving IPS officer to write for a journal associated with the RSS.
According to the service rules of civil servants, IPS officers can write only on scientific, cultural and literary subjects with a disclaimer stating that views expressed are personal.
Rao was appointed as the acting director of CBI on 23 October 2018 at a time when there was a fight going on between then CBI director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana.
Rao, an Odisha-cadre IPS officer, was given his current charge in July 2019.
He has been working with various organisations on causes such as freeing temples from state control, banning beef export, and has also participated in meetings of RSS think-tanks India Foundation and Vivekananda International Foundation.
Rs 2 lakh crore ‘foreign donations’ came to India in last 20 yrs
In his article, Rao said “humongous amount of Rs 2,08,096 crore” has been received by Indian NGOs as “foreign donations” in the last two decades “through official open channels“.
“This discussion does not factor in the amount of foreign funds that gets into the country through illegal routes or otherwise camouflaged as foreign investment,” he added.
Rao wrote that further analysis of the FCRA data indicates that the total amount brought forward by the FCRA-NGOs “as unspent money from past foreign donations” as on 1 April 2017 is a “whopping Rs 15,907 crore”. He said more than 50% of this amount is lying with “about 2% of the FCRA-NGOs”.
Rao asked why foreigners are donating such huge amounts to Indians unless they have some agenda. If their intention is just philanthropy, he questioned, why they aren’t donating funds to help people in their own countries.
“No self-respecting sovereign country much less a civilisational nation with aspirations of superpower can afford such blatant meddling in its domestic affairs,” he wrote.
‘Not a beggar nation that needs foreign charity’
Citing “serious concerns” expressed from different quarters about the role of foreign funds in creating “subtle as well as obvious” influence on the executive, legislative, judicial, political, religious and economic processes of the country, Rao wrote: “…foreign funds have been the prime mover for changing the religious demography, interference in our indigenous religious traditions and practices, creating hurdles in our socio-economic progress…colonising our minds and subverting our national discourse to suit certain sinister purposes.”
The former CBI acting chief said India is “not a beggar nation that needs foreign charity”.
“Charity presupposes an unequal relationship, for, the receiving hand is always below the giving hand. Being one of the biggest emerging economies, we are capable of internally generating the money required for philanthropic, relief and rehabilitation, religious and charitable purposes. The institutionalised CSR funding is one such prime example.”
Rao said India has “rightly been refusing foreign aid even during disasters”, and that it was “high time that we revisit our public and legislative policy towards foreign ‘donations’, a substantial part of which are suspected to be funding the fifth columns and breaking India programmes”.
Advocating a ban on “all sorts of foreign donations” he, however, sought to make an exception for the Indians settled abroad.
“India has long recognised the valuable contribution of its diaspora who have civilisational and emotional connect with India. It is mutually beneficial for India and its diaspora to strengthen this civilisational umbilical connection. Hence, donations made by the overseas citizens of India in their individual capacity… and not acting as agents or conduits for others, that too for the limited purpose of preservation, study, promotion and propagation of ancient Indian texts and traditional Indian knowledge, may be allowed.”
Rao also said any foreigner “genuinely interested in philanthropy” and who wants to help India “is always welcome to donate to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”.